BOOKS: The book that shook

BOOKS: The book that shook - 'The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy is an overview of world history from 1500 to date. The premise of the book is that empires have risen largely in line with their economic power and efficiency. Sometimes t

by SIMON BURKE, chairman, Hamleys
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

'The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy is an overview of world history from 1500 to date. The premise of the book is that empires have risen largely in line with their economic power and efficiency. Sometimes this has been helped by good government over the years, but more often it has derived from changes in the patterns of world economic activity.

They have fallen for similar reasons. Even brilliant leaders such as Charles V or Napoleon were unable to reverse this process in their domains.

Such patterns are also apparent in business. And, more often than not, corporate strategies aimed at world domination and featuring ever more ambitious mega-deals end with an ignominious dismemberment of the overstretched corporate empire, or else a rapid fall from grace. There are, of course, exceptions, but for most of us the lesson is that it is surely dangerous to believe you can succeed where even Napoleon failed. The best routes to value creation are often, sadly, not the ones that are most appealing to our egos.'

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